Pre- and post harvest factors influencing the eating quality of selected Nectarine (Prunus persica (L.) Batsch ) cultivars

Laubscher, Nicolaas Johannes (2006-03)

Thesis (MscAgric (Horticulture))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


Fruit quality, and especially eating quality, of nectarines has become very important to markets and consumers in recent years. Pre- and post harvest factors that influence the eating quality of nectarines were studied to optimise fruit quality at harvest and to maintain this quality during export. This will ensure good returns for a producer and will maximise his profit. The influence of the variables canopy position, initial fruit size and bearing position was studied to determine the variation in fruit quality within a nectarine tree. ‘Red Jewel’ and ‘Ruby Diamond’ fruit from the upper part of the tree canopy had significantly higher total soluble solids (TSS). Fruit position on the shoot does not seem to play a significant role in fruit quality for ‘Red Jewel’ nectarines, which will allow producers to leave more than one fruit per bearer if necessary. Fruit thinning is an important means to improve fruit size and quality in ‘Red Jewel’, but poor thinning can cause extreme variability in size and quality. Fruit that were small at thinning remained significantly smaller, weighed less, had lower sugars and higher acids at harvest. If it is possible to reduce the variation in size at thinning, fruit will be much more homogenous at harvest. The effect of pre-conditioning (PC) prior to storage and controlled atmosphere (CA) storage was evaluated on ‘Red Jewel’ and ‘Spring Bright’ nectarines. Free juice percentage was determined at the end of a simulated export protocol. The severity of woolliness differed between the two seasons for both nectarine cultivars. PC, to a firmness of 6 kg, followed by regular atmosphere (RA) storage increased percentage free juice significantly in ‘Spring Bright’ and ‘Red Jewel’ nectarines. However, a PC protocol for each cultivar and each producer must be determined beforehand to ensure fruit quality. CA storage is another technique that can be used to prevent the development of chilling injury (CI) symptoms. Both ‘Spring Bright’ and ‘Red Jewel’ showed an increase in percentage free juice with the use of CA storage during both seasons.The eating quality of nectarines depends on the composition of the individual sugars and organic acids and the ratio between them. Sucrose, fructose, glucose and sorbitol were found to be the major sugars in all evaluated nectarine cultivars. Sucrose was the dominant sugar in all cultivars at optimum maturity. The three main organic acids in nectarine cultivars were malic, citric and quinic acid, with malic acid being dominant at optimum maturity. Small amounts of shikimic, fumaric and succinic acid were also observed. It was evident that cultivars differ in the composition of sugar and organic acids at optimum maturity, especially the standard acid cultivars and the new low-acid cultivars. Individual sugars and organic acids in cultivars also differ in how they react during storage.

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